County Antrim (Contae Aontroma or simply Aontroim in Irish) is one of the six counties that form the political unit of Northern Ireland, and one of nine counties that historically and geographically constitute the Province of Ulster. It is the 9th largest of the 32 traditional Counties of Ireland in terms of area, and 2nd in terms of population behind County Dublin. Antrim is situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland. It is bounded north and east by the narrow seas separating Northern Ireland from Scotland, the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea, south by Belfast Lough and the River Lagan dividing it from County Down, south-west by Lough Neagh, dividing it from County Armagh and County Tyrone, and west by County Londonderry, the boundary with which is the River Bann. Covering an area of 2,844 km², it has a population of approximately 566,000, most of them in and around the Belfast area.
The Glens of Antrim offer isolated rugged landscapes, the Giant's Causeway is a unique landscape and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Bushmills produces legendary whiskey, and Portrush is a popular nightlife zone. The majority of the capital city of Northern Ireland, Belfast, is also in County Antrim, with the remainder being in County Down.
A large portion of the county is hilly, especially in the east, where the highest elevations are attained, though these are nowhere great. The range runs north and south, and, following this direction the highest points are Knocklayd (1,695 feet), Slieveanorra (1,676 feet), Trostan (1,817 feet), Slemish (1,457 feet) and Divis (1,567 feet). The inland slope is gradual, but on the northern shore the range terminates in abrupt and almost perpendicular declivities, and here, consequently, some of the finest coast scenery in the world is found, widely differing, with its unbroken lines of cliffs, from the indented coast-line of the west. The most remarkable cliffs are those formed of perpendicular basaltic columns, extending for many miles, and most strikingly displayed in Fair Head and the celebrated Giant's Causeway. From the eastern coast the hills rise instantly but less abruptly, and the indentations are wider and deeper. On both coasts there are several resort towns, including Portrush (with well-known golf links), Portballintrae and Ballycastle; on the east Cushendun, Cushendall and Milltown on Red Bay, Carnlough and Glenarm, Larne, and Whitehead on Belfast Lough. All are somewhat exposed to the easterly winds prevalent in spring. The only island of size is Rathlin Island, off Ballycastle, 6½ miles in length by 1½ in breadth, 7 miles from the coast, and of similar basaltic and limestone formation to that of the mainland. It is partially arable, and supports a small population. Islandmagee is in fact a peninsula separating Larne Lough from the North Channel.
The valleys of the Bann and Lagan, with the intervening shores of Lough Neagh, form the fertile lowlands. These two rivers, both rising in County Down, are the only ones of importance. The latter flows to Belfast Lough, the former drains Lough Neagh, which is fed by a number of smaller streams. The fisheries of the Bann and of Lough Neagh (especially for salmon and eels) are of value both commercially and to sportsmen, the small town of Toome, at the outflow of the river, being the centre. Immediately below this point lies Lough Beg, the "Small Lake," about 15 feet lower than Lough Neagh.
The antiquities of the county consist of cairns, mounts or forts, remains of ecclesiastical and military structures, and round towers. The principal cairns are: one on Colin mountain, near Lisburn; one on Slieve True, near Carrickfergus; and two on Colinward. The cromlechs most worthy of notice are: one near Cairngrainey, to the north-east of the old road from Belfast to Templepatrick; the large cromlech at Mount Druid, near Ballintoy; and one at the northern extremity of Islandmagee. The mounts, forts and entrenchments are very numerous.
There are three round towers: one at Antrim, one at Armoy, and one on Ram Island in Lough Neagh, only that at Antrim being perfect. There are some remains of the ecclesiastic establishments at Bonamargy, where the earls of Antrim are buried, Kells, Glenarm, Glynn, Muckamore and Whiteabbey.
The noble castle of Carrickfergus is the only one in perfect preservation. There are, however, remains of other ancient castles, as Olderfleet, Cam's, Shane's, Glenarm, Garron Tower and Red Bay, but the most interesting of all is Dunluce Castle, remarkable for its great extent and romantic situation.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant's Causeway, is in Antrim.
Slemish, about 8 miles east of Ballymena, is notable as being the scene of St Patrick's early life. According to tradition Saint Patrick was a slave for seven years, near the hill of Slemish, until he escaped back to Great Britain.
Linen manufacturing was previously an important industry in the County. At the time Ireland produced a large mount of flax. Cotton-spinning by jennies was first introduced by to Belfast by industrialists Robert Joy and Thomas M'Cabe in 1777; an Twenty-three years later it was estimated that more than 27,000 people were employed in the industry within 10 miles of Belfast. Women were employed in the working of patterns on muslin.
Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/
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